When IE goes bad on you

Today has been just one of those days. I had some work I needed to get done as well as posting something very interesting. What happens?
Internet Explorer dies on my computer…

It started out with Firefox opening up every URL I tried to open in IE. I restarted the computer and set IE as the default web browser instead. This resulted in that every web page was just white, no dialogs worked and I couldn’t view source. Since IE has got such a tight grip on Windows, you can’t just uninstall it and then reinstall it again, so that wasn’t an option to easy fix it.

After some long time spent to try different approaches to fix the problem, I gave up and reinstalled Service Pack 2. Problem is, when the computer restarted and before I got into Windows, the installation contained some kind of wizard in, yeah, you guessed it: HTML. A dialog came up asking me if I wanted to open the file or save it. I choose open, which resulted in IE opening just a blank white page. I closed that window and got an error message. I was stuck.

I turned off the computer by pressing the on/off button and started Windows in Safe Mode. Removed Firefox just to play it safe and restarted it again. No wizard this time, everything seemed fine and I got into Windows. Opened IE: blank white page. Ready to scream words no man should ever utter, I bit my lip and went online once again to find the solution.

What I then found was this: How do I repair Internet Explorer in Windows® XP? and IEFix. I went with IEFix but they seem to do the same thing. Basically, here’s the guide (run IEFix.exe to skip the first three steps):

  1. Click the Start menu.
  2. Choose Run.
  3. Type in “rundll32.exe setupapi,InstallHinfSection DefaultInstall 132 %windir%\Inf\ie.inf” and press enter/click OK.
  4. Locate IEXPLORE.EXE/IEXPLORE.EX_ on the Windows XP SP 2 CD (or download and extract SP 2 using WinRAR to your hard drive and point to that).
  5. Next, then locate mswrd632.wpc/mswrd632.wp_ which is located on the default Windows XP installation CD.

After that, my IE was actually whole again. All in all, though, with all problems I had, waiting, trying to find good guides etc I wasted about three to four hours of my day. The lesson is to never tie a web browser so tight to the operating system…

My feelings right now?

I.Hate.Internet.Explorer.

27 Comments

  • Carl Camera says:

    Sorry to hear of your frustration today. Do you think rolling back to a previous System Restore point may have helped? Or do you think your Windows machine is jealous of all the attention you’re giving that other computer 😉 in the room?

  • So you’ll be joining Tommy’s Club then with regards to the imaginative words to call Internet Explorer when it decides not to play nicely?

    There should have been no need to uninstall Firefox it should have been obvious as it’s not woven into the Windows fabric in the same twisted way.

  • Jules says:

    Both at home and at play work, I have Opera set as my default browser. I haven’t had that problem (yet) and I hope not ever to experience it (our IT department might have a kanipshun if they found I was using an unsanctioned browser).

  • I’ve had the problem with not being able to view source. After I deleted the cached (including offline content), I was able to view source. Now I have IE (not my primary browser) set to delete the cache on exit.

  • Tommy Olsson says:

    Like Jules, I use Opera both at home and at work … and even on my mobile (Opera Mini). Never a problem.

    And as old Mr. Wellock said, I've had my share of IE frustration lately. A colleague claims that she learned many new cusswords in the process. It's amazing how much that browser can muck up perfectly good CSS, really.

    @Tanny: That's one of the know problems with IE. When the cache is full, it will behave even more oddly than usual. You can't view source, and sometimes you can only save images as BMP!

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Carl,

    Not sure if a rollback like that would've helped. It wasn't really an option for me either. Regarding the jealosuy: yeah, probably! 🙂

    Robert W,

    Uninstalling Firefox was just a desperate act. Of course the problem didn't lie there… 🙂

    Tanny,

    Yes, I heard that and tried emptying the cache with no luck.

    Jules, Tommy,

    I mean, of course no one using a PC who likes to browse the web has got IE as their default web browser. 😉

    But if you're a web developer it's pretty hard to make due without being able to test in IE on PC.

  • Mats says:

    Hi Robert, I have the same problem both at work and at home, I think it has to do with installing IE7 alongside IE6.

    It must have something to do with the popup blocker or something like that. I've looked through the registry but some of the key in there doesn't make any sense at all.

    I'll try your solution.

    On a sidenote: One weird thing in IE7 is that the popup blocker blocks windows opened from toolbars. Like the accesibility toolbar. Have you seen this?

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Mats,

    I'm sorry to hear that. Please try what I did and let me know if it worked.

    I haven't seen the problem you mention with the accessibility toolbar, but I take your word for it. 🙂

  • Phil Sherry says:

    Someone needs to make the switch! 😉

  • Jens Meiert says:

    A quick tutorial on how to make friends and fans, right? At least it shows what impact a bad user experience has.

  • Robert says:

    A suggestion that has served me well over the past couple of years – use Virtual PC to run IE and test. The advantage is that you can install different versions (4,5,5.5, etc) on each machine and if you use undo disks you can simply roll the thing back to a clean slate when you need to.

  • Mats says:

    @phil, I have a Mac as well … a Mini, but as you know I need both worlds to be able to be bulletproof. 😉

  • matthijs says:

    Is VirtualPC something which can be installed on a mac?

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Phil,

    I wish it was that easy! 🙂

    Jens,

    Oh yes…

    Robert,

    That's a good suggestion. I usually take the multiple IE approach, which works fine for me.

    The problem in this scenario, though, is that it was the default IE in my operating system that got messed up, so I couldn't really prevent nor foresee it.

    mats,

    I agree, the bulletproof path is the way to go. 🙂

    matthijs,

    Yes: Virtual PC for Mac

  • Johan says:

    streamline the installation XP CD with SP2 installed

  • Marco says:

    I was going to say the same thing Phil mentioned until I read he already said it 😉

    However I do agree one just needs to have IE around for testing purposes. I guess IE is a pain that won't go away for at least two years to come. For Mac users it's even worse, it requires a trash box (a PC) to be around at all times which makes it suck even more 😉

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Johan,

    I guess you need to elobrate on that, I seem to be thick for the moment… 🙂

    Marco,

    From what I've heard, many Mac users don't have a PC around, but instad think that using Virtual PC for Mac is sufficient.

  • Johan says:

    A slip of the tongue I meant …

    Slipstreaming XP + SP2 + hotfixes I meant … This will make any re-install a breeze plus you can make customized installs, remove clutter, bad performance.

    automate software installs …

    http://www.nliteos.com/nlite.html

  • Johan says:

    if I might elaborate on a other matter …

    virtual PC on mac is really a processor performance eater

    plus it works not as a real windows all the way since even explorer behaves different … which you need for the browser testing. You could try it out and see of course

  • Jewel says:

    I tend to use the Firefox extension IE Tab (which uses the IE engine embedded within Firefox), when I need to use IE. Can this be used as a webdev test, or must we use IE proper?

    IE Tab

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Johan,

    Looks nice, although I still hate the fact that the web browser is tied so closely to the operating system.

    Jewel,

    Good question. I'm not sure, but I guess it would be the same…

    However, I always make sure to test in the "real" web browsers.

  • Jewel says:

    Thanks, Robert. 🙂

    I do have real IE installed of course, (IE6 on my desktop, and IE7 on the lappy).

  • Johan says:

    Robert >Looks nice, although I still hate the fact that the web browser is tied so closely to the operating system.

    Maybe a combination of virtual PC and a slipstreamed bootable customised XP CD/DVD could be an idea.

    It is true that there will be *something* needed to make IE, but stand alone versions could be an option … but will it work?

  • Johan: There is no difference at all in behaviour between a browser running in a Windows OS under Virtual PC on the Mac and the real thing. I don't think performance is that bad either. It's certainly good enough to test websites, and even good enough to do a bit of development (I use it for my Visual Studio needs).

    Virtual PC for the Mac emulates the hardware of an Intel PC, and lets you install any OS that runs on that hardware.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Jewel,

    Good on you! 🙂

    Johan,

    Well, when running multiple stand'alone IEs I get the same result as in "real" ones. But I hate the fundamental fact that IE is so dependant on Windows, and vice versa.

    Roger,

    Thanks for clearing that out, I haven't tried it myself.

  • oli-uk says:

    I like the multiple IE plan above,

    Also you may wish to consider the following plan:
    Once you have a (mostly) working version of IE whether IE6,7,8 or 9 or whatever
    Don’t touch it
    Leave it alone so that it can do updates

    If you try to upgrade it, downgrade it or even use it for browsing it will probably break and then you can’t do any updates.

    Use a different browser for everyday use and leave IE to do updates only
    There are lots of browsers to choose from

  • Robert Nyman says:

    oli-uk,

    Well, upgrades are very important for security reasons.

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